Sunday, April 29, 2007

T-shirts so funny it hurts

Drawing attention to one's political, social or party attitude ('Pick Flowers Not Fights') with a fluorescent Eighties-revival Hamnett-esque 'commentwear' T-shirt, currently sold in bulk on the high street, is not quite so groovy as spelling out one's personal illness. Charities are currently competing to produce this year's proudest, most factually woeful and darkly comical T-shirt.

Wearers of the chest messages 'Got Morphine?', 'Chemo Commando' and 'Professional Pin Cushion' already back the American Cancer Society 'in fine style'. Diabetic charities are hot on 'Divabetic', 'Death By Chocolate (Seriously)' and 'My Pancreas Works On AAA Batteries'. Folk with cardiac defibrillators have 'I'm Wired' and 'Hi-tech Ticker'. Sufferers of strokes, arthritis, burns, epilepsy and brain tumours variously may sport 'Neural Construction Zone', 'Tour Guide At Chernobyl', 'Shaken Not Stirred' and 'I Have A Brain Tumour... What's Your Excuse?'

Asthmatics have 'iPuff' and 'Blow Me - I'm Asthmatic', prostate patients and incontinents have 'I'm Going With The Flow', dyslexics have 'Dyslexics Have More Fnu', and Tourette's sufferers have 'F*cking Tourette's. Sorry'. Wearers of 'Dude, Where's My Arm?' help fund the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists. But all losers of an organ normally found in pairs (an arm, leg, eye, breast, testicle or kidney) are currently encouraged to sport the T-slogan 'Team Uno'. It is being debated whether it would be an insult or a message of solidarity for non-sufferers and non-patients to snap up these items. By August, could fashion students with weekend market stalls be combing medical text-books for ever rarer conditions?

Ann Coulter's Funny

Are straight people allowed to say "faggot"? Are white people allowed to say "nigger"? Generally no. Our unwritten speech codes require that those words be used only by gays and blacks, respectively (black gays can say both). Which is just as it should be: minorities can reappropriate slurs if it empowers them or even if it just humors them ? I think it's funny when fellow gays sarcastically say "Hey faggot" to me. But it wouldn't be so funny if, say, my heterosexual boss said it. Sorry, straight people: you don't get to say "faggot." (I can still be fired for being gay in most U.S. states, so you still have the better end of the bargain.) Speech codes are one of the many social devices that keep us from all murdering each other with our bare hands in the grocery aisle.

But speech codes deeply offend conservatives, which is the point Ann Coulter was making when she said this last week: "I was going to have a few comments about the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards. But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.'"

Pretty much everyone in mainstream politics, right and left, then condemned her. Coulter is very good at sparking these controversies. She does it once or twice a year, to the great benefit of her fame and book sales.

Coulter is heterosexual, so I suppose I should condemn her as well. But note that she was using the word "faggot" with virtual quote marks around it. Surely all of us are allowed to do that ? just the way I used the N word in quote marks above. She didn't say "John Edwards is a faggot." She would never say that ? not because she respects the rights of gays to full equality before the law (she doesn't) ? but because it wouldn't be funny. Coulter wants to make people laugh more than anything; she is, as i have argued here, a right-wing ironist and comedienne as much as she is a political commentator. This is obvious if you watch her speak with the sound off ? she is smiling or even giggling most of the time; she theatrically rolls her eyes; you can see her pause and toss her hair into a jaunty cant before delivering a punchline. We don't read her body language the way we normally do because the words she is uttering are so peremptory and shocking. If we did, we would put her in the same league as Bill Maher or Jackie Mason, not the dry policy analysts who are sometimes pitted against her on cable-news shows.

I have interviewed both Coulter and Edwards in the past, and I'm pretty sure the attention her comments have drawn pleases both of them, at least a little. (Well, it pleases Ann a great deal; I wonder if she can now charge an extra $5,000 for her next speaking engagement...) Edwards got some free media, his first since the Obama-Clinton standoff began in earnest; he is also using the incident to raise money, something Coulter has noted with glee on her website.

I do have one complaint with Coulter's joke: It wasn't that funny. Edwards is many things ? a little dull, wrong on Iraq, hopelessly reductive on the economy (there are many more than two Americas). But he doesn't seem the least bit gay to me. Coulter has at least one close gay friend, and when I was reporting my profile of her, she always remembered to ask about my partner at the time. She is always trying to get me to go with her to the Halloween parade in Manhattan's West Village, which is the second gayest event in New York City after the Pride parade. So I'm not sure why she thought it would be funny to target a gay joke at Edwards. But then again she doesn't need her semiannual cadenzas of outrage to be funny: she just needs us to condemn them, louder and louder every time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yunus in politics: Answers to the criticisms

When he decided to join politics, he was aware of the risk of criticism. Praise, he has enjoyed in plenty during much of his life. Very few individuals, anywhere, have had the good fortune of receiving such profuse praise.

It is said that the people of the world know of Bangladesh because of Dr Yunus. For some, this is simply inconceivable and unacceptable. A small coterie of jealous intellectuals and politicians is getting some consolation through illogical and untrue criticism, which Dr Yunus usually prefers to ignore.

I will try to show in this writing how hollow their criticisms are. I do not remember the names of all the critics, but I remember some. Many of the columnists made almost the same points again and again in their criticisms. I will try to answer these briefly, as an ordinary supporter of Nagorik Shakti.

  • At the top is the Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina. However she did not mention names when she said: "There is no difference between bribe-takers and interest-takers." I prefer not to say anything myself on this. I will, instead, quote the prominent economist Dr Debopriyo Bhattacharya. He commented on this remark in a TV talk show recently: "To take bribe is a legally punishable offense. To take interest is a legally valid activity. If you stop taking interest, banks and businesses will cease to exist. The economy of the country will be jeopardized. One cannot equate bribe-taking and interest-taking."

    The funny thing is that Sheikh Hasina made the comment with Mr. Abdul Jalil (Awami league G.S), the Chairman of Mercantile Bank, at her side. Mr. Jalil should teach her about the banking business. At the same time, it is clear that Sheikh Hasina's knowledge about Grameen Bank is also very limited.

    Even if we assume, for argument's sake, that Grameen Bank's interest rate is high, that interest is going to the owners of the bank -- its poor women loanees. Neither Prof. Yunus, nor any other individual is the owner of Grameen Bank. Prof. Yunus is only a salaried managing director of the bank. If Sheikh Hasina insists on describing somebody as an interest-taker, in this case her words will apply to the poor women loanees of Grameen Bank who are the owners and recipients of that interest.

  • Sheikh Hasina added in the same speech: "If the politicians are that bad, then why do you have such a desire to be in politics?" She is quite right. This is precisely the reason why Dr Yunus wants to come to politics. If the politicians were honest, then the country would not have been in such a situation. Does Sheikh Hasina have no knowledge about the corruptions of the politicians? Is she not reading about it every day in the newspapers? Dr Yunus gave the call for honest and able candidates because of this state of politics. Had the politicians been good, Dr Yunus would not be required in the political field at all.
  • Many columnists, including Mr. Badruddin Omar, have written that Dr Yunus is the only one active in politics, taking advantage of the emergency; the caretaker government has facilitated this for him; etc. The complaint is not correct. Firstly, at that time the emergency had not banned political discussions and writings. Only processions, hortals, aborodhs, public meetings and destructive programs were banned. All the parties -- Awami League, BNP, LDP, CPB, Workers' Party -- were conducting meetings within four walls.

    These were duly reported in the newspapers and TV. The columnists preferred not to notice these. Secondly, Dr Yunus published two open letters -- that has been the extent of his political activity. The rest did not come from him. These, rather, came from the newspapers and the TV channels.

    Nevertheless, the columnists kept saying that Dr Yunus was monopolizing all political activities. Would the columnists please say, which activities? Yes, he called for formation of supporters' groups -- but these were to be formed within the four walls. Such Ghoroa Rajniti had not yet been banned. Then why the complaints?

  • Some blue-panel teachers opposed the participation of Dr Yunus in the Dhaka University convocation, and his being the convocation speaker. They argued that Dr Yunus had become a controversial person by entering politics. So, the University could no longer honour him with an honorary degree, or invite him to be the convocation speaker.
  • One does not become controversial by joining politics. Dr Yunus has only named his party, and has hardly done anything else in politics. He has not joined any government, and has not had any opportunity to become controversial. Then why this opposition in anticipation? Is this not carrying narrow-mindedness too far?
  • He was honored as a Nobel Laureate. Has anything happened to that status? Was it not still shining, unblemished as ever? This incident will be long remembered as an example of how narrow-minded even university teachers can become if they happen to be Awami-adjuncts. They did not mind being diminished in the eyes of their own students. Their opposition did not cost Dr Yunus anything.
  • He was duly honored with the degree, and he duly delivered his long written speech. May I say here, for the benefit of those blue-group teachers, that Dr Yunus had received 27 honorary doctorates from various universities of the world prior to the one from Dhaka University -- and none of those had waited for a Nobel prize.
  • Dr Yunus, while visiting Abu Dhabi, requested Mr. Al-Nahiyan, the minister for higher education and technology, to consider establishing a world-class medical college and hospital in Bangladesh. The minister agreed in principle, and promised that he would give a formal declaration when visiting Dhaka in April. He even proposed that the college be jointly named after him and Yunus.
  • The fact that Mr. Al-Nahiyan also happens to be the chairman of Dhabi Group does not affect the proposal in any way. But some columnists tried to muddy the water even with this news. I am afraid, lest their opposition for opposition's sake deprives Bangladesh of a world-class medical college and hospital.
  • Dr Yunus has suggested that the establishment of a mega-port (a deep-sea one) and a mega-airport will be an important corner-stone for the country's economy. He indicated that Moheshkali, or nearby areas, could be a good place for that. He also suggested that this could take place on the basis of a social business enterprise (no loss and no dividend).
  • The super-port and the super-airport are bound to become the subject of wide discussions by all concerned. But even before discussions have started, the critics are taking this as an opportunity to attack Dr Yunus. Dr Yunus never made any comment on the existing port in Chittagong. But that has not prevented the columnists from distorting his comments.
  • Dr Yunus is in favour of giving India transit facilities. This is his opinion. He has not got an opportunity yet to elaborate his arguments for this, and the conditions under which he thinks that transit can be permitted. But the columnists got busy with severe criticism all the same. Some political parties are also in favour of permitting the transit. This needs active and considered discussions. This is not something which can done by writing columns attacking Dr Yunus.
  • Many have written that Dr Yunus should not have come to politics. He is a crown on our head, and should remain on the head. Politics is a dirty thing. He will become controversial if he comes in politics.

    He should act as a guardian to the nation, etc.

  • It seems that those who are taking this line are his well-wishers. But the criticism is not proper. Under the prevailing political culture of our country nobody expects that political leaders are waiting for advice from Dr Yunus. In particular, the two all-powerful leaders would hardly care for that. Therefore, he will be crying in the wilderness in his role as guardian. He could only continue to say good things as he was doing, without any real effect.
  • The fact is, unless Dr Yunus and other competent and honest persons like him come forward to join politics, the quality of our politics and governance can not rise from its present low, the one which we have been experiencing for the last 15 years in spite of having democratically elected governments. We are fed up with the situation.
  • Previously, people would say: "There is no alternative to Hasina and Khaleda, so we are compelled to vote either for one or the other." But now that there is a viable alternative in the field, but some of those people seem to say: "Oh no, not him, why should he come into politics?" If this is not self-contradiction what is?
  • The politics in our country has degenerated because of the two major parties and their two leaders. The country needs a personality like Dr Yunus to bring truly democratic politics. I do not claim that he can change politics, or the situation, dramatically. But he can try. If he had not come to politics, even that chance would not have been there. The only option would be to go back to the looters. Now at least there is a chance.
  • Perhaps Dr Yunus could not avoid criticism even if he had failed to respond to the people's wishes, and refused to join polities. Then many would have said: "He is a self-centered man, busy enjoying his Noble Prize fame as the father of microcredit and an international celebrity, basking in glory. He is not interested in saving his country, and does not care for the fact that the country is going to hell." So the criticisms would be made, either way.
  • One of the critics has written: "How can Dr Yunus float a party while he is still in the service of Grameen Bank?" The answer is -- firstly, Grameen Bank is not a government organization; secondly, he has only declared the party, and has not officially started it.
  • There are many remarks about the issues of Grameen Phone and Telenor. The fact is, Grameen Bank is not a share-holder of Grameen Phone, Grameen Telecom is. The problem created between Telenor and Grameen Telecom will be answered by Grameen Telecom, not by Dr Yunus.
  • One has even objected to the name, Nagorik Shakti -- saying that rural people are not Nagorik. This interpretation is not right. Nagorik means citizen, and all people of Bangladesh -- rural and urban -- are its nagoriks. Dr Yunus' method of reaching the people with open letters has also come under criticism. This has been a simple way of communicating within emergency limitations. And what is wrong with letters and phones anyway?
  • Some complained that Nagorik Shakti has not elaborated its programs. We should not forget that the party has hardly yet started. The policy makers are working on its detailed objectives, and these will be published in due time. The basic ideals have been given through the open letters. Those who wish to join on the basis of these have been invited to do so by forming groups. Those who want to wait for more details can wait. Nobody is being forced.
  • Many have complained that Dr Yunus was never in politics, he did not take part in the political movements, did not give opinions and statements on various political issues; how can he suddenly come into politics? Yes, this is a very pertinent question. But everybody has to start from somewhere. Let this be his start.
  • This is, by no means, a violation of the law, or democracy, or the constitution. We can grant him at least an apprenticeship in politics. I want to ask a question. Did the columnists raise the same question when Dr Badruddoza, Colonel Oli, Dr Mosharraf, Mr. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Dr Mohiuddin Alamgir left their respective professions to suddenly join politics? When Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasian were made the chiefs of their parties, what was the extent of their political experience? Does Dr Yunus have less experience or understanding of the country, society, economics and politics than a housewife?
  • One critic has written: "Dr Yunus wants to get a walk-over in the empty field of politics." But where is the empty field? The fact that the players are waiting within their houses for the moment does not mean that the game will be a walk-over. When open political activities begin again, all of them will be playing in the field.
  • Several participants in a talk show said: "Dr Yunus is doing everything on his own. He is deciding everything for the party without consulting others. He is behaving like a dictator similar to Khaleda and Hasina," etc.
  • Well, these days politics has been confined within four walls. There was no way of organizing open meetings. Why did the critics in this talk show assume that Dr Yunus did not consult anyone? Perhaps what they meant was that he did not consult them. Everybody knows that Nagorik Shakti has hardly been formed yet. It is not a dissident group coming out of a big party; it is a completely new party in every sense. No wonder discussions and consultations have to take place with caution.
  • Professor Yunus has criticized our politicians, saying that politics in recent times has been for money rather than for ideals. This remark has generated a lot of criticism. I do not think Dr Yunus intended to accuse all politicians of money-making -- what he meant was the unmistakable central character of our politics. The foreign journalist (AFP) involved may not have grasped exactly what Dr Yunus meant.
  • Our own journalists also make such mistakes, willingly or unwillingly, all too often. But the fact remains that our politicians in general cannot escape the accusation of corruption, even though not everyone is corrupt. Honest politicians are few in number and, in the recent past, they had negligible influence on mainstream politics. Dr Yunus's remark has also received a lot of acclamation from general people, as it has received a lot of criticisms from the politicians and the columnists. This shows that the public perception is not far from what Dr Yunus said.
  • Some critics have said that Nobel Laureates usually do not come to politics after getting the prize. Dr Yunus is so hungry for power that he entered politics even after being awarded with such an honour.
  • They are right; few Nobel Prize winners think about joining politics. But then which other country that has Nobel Laureates has leaders like Hasina and Khaleda? How many have parties like BNP and Awami League? Do those countries obtain first place in corruption for years in a row? No, Nobel Laureates there do not need to come to politics.
  • Some said that Dr Yunus has said different things on politics and election at different times during the last few months, and he has not been consistent.
  • Maybe so; but has not the political scenario of Bangladesh changed dramatically at various moments during the last four months? How could Dr Yunus say the same thing in the context of totally changed circumstances. His critics conveniently forgot to mention that he was insisting on following the constitution when it was still possible within a consensus.
  • At one stage he proposed a peace treaty which would allow a coalition government of the two contending parties to iron out all the fundamental issues of election rules before going into an early flawless re-election. Unfortunately, none of the parties paid any attention to him.
  • Some said that Dr Yunus never talked about the people's problems. How can he be in politics?This is not true. Though Dr Yunus was not a man of politics, he was always concerned with the problems of the country. He put forward his recommendations in his own way, which have been widely published and have been included in several books by him. He even had a clear lay-out about the desired political process for the country. In 1983 he presented his ideas of a political party (Amar Dol) in detail while speaking as the chief guest at the launching ceremony of Gono Forum. Remember, this was long back in 1983!
  • Some have criticized the way Dr Yunus invited letters, faxes, SMS and phones from the general people. They said that this was not the way to form a political party. But there is no written grammar to follow on how to form a political party. Why do they think that every party has to be formed in the same way?
  • Dr Yunus is a creative person. He has his unique touch in everything he does. It is not surprising that he has this touch even in the task of forming a party. Also, what is wrong with getting the people's opinion directly from them through letters, or SMS or emails? If Dr Yunus communicates with the general people for the creation of his party, how does he offend the critics by doing so?
  • Sometimes questions and criticisms come out of the blue. For example, a journalist asked him suddenly, without any context" "Are you ready to give the accounts of your properties?" Dr Yunus's answer was: "I will give it when the government wants it."

Why does Dr Yunus suddenly need to give the account of his properties? For what reason? Is he filing a nomination paper in an election? Has he been appointed in a government position? Then why did the journalist ask him that question? What agenda did this journalist have in mind? Did he ever ask this question to Khaleda Zia or Mosaddek Ali Falu (an MP)?

This is how Dr Yunus is being attacked with meaningless criticism every day. Most of those who are engaging in this are well-educated people. But still they do not care for the logic or the factual correctness of the things they are saying. I have tried here to answer a few of these in my own way. Some of the other criticisms are too bizarre to merit an answer. I do not think critics will stop because of my answers. I just wanted to show how badly these criticisms lack logic, meaning, or substance.

Friday, March 30, 2007

McCain hopes to reclaim maverick mantle

The bus is back.Sen. John McCain has revived the "Straight Talk Express," the campaign conveyance made famous in his 2000 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, for his new run. The Arizona lawmaker was back on board Thursday afternoon, hitting town-hall meetings in Iowa, the scene of the first caucuses of the 2008 GOP campaign."I'm still the same candidate I was -- little bit older, but still the same candidate," he said. "We're still having fun. We're still on the bus, still having the town hall meetings in the same way that we were before, and I'm convinced we're doing fine."McCain is trying to reclaim the maverick mantle he wore seven years ago, when he upset then-front-runner George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary -- and largely ignored Iowa, where his opposition to ethanol subsidies was a liability in a corn-belt state.But the 20-year Senate veteran has spent most of the intervening years veering back toward the Republican mainstream. He is one of the most outspoken defenders of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, now widely unpopular, and has courted religious conservatives whose leaders he once savaged as "agents of intolerance."Today, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani -- a supporter of abortion rights, gun control and domestic partnership laws for same-sex couples -- looks like the outsider. But buoyed by his response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center, Giuliani has opened up a double-digit lead over McCain in the GOP presidential field. (Poll: Giuliani leads GOP pack)Of course, the votes won't be counted in Iowa for 10 months. And though his full-throated support for the war may hurt, his strategists say McCain's background as a former Navy flier and prisoner of war in Vietnam, plus his expertise as the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, will help him."The transcendent issue of this campaign will be this conflict we are in between good and evil, between the forces of radical Islam and extremists that are trying to destroy America and everything we believe in," he told reporters in Des Moines. "I'm qualified. I know the face of war. I know the face of evil. I will win. We will win."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bookman: Gonzales' lies give justice a dirty name

"I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee two months ago.

If you want to understand how a pretty minor story — the removal of eight U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration — has somehow metastasized into a major controversy, that statement by Gonzales is your Rosetta Stone. It opens the door to the three levels of scandal in this story, ranging from relatively minor to potentially grave and earthshaking.

Let's start with the relatively minor. In his statement to Congress, Gonzales acknowledges it would be wrong to remove prosecutors for political reasons. It is so wrong, he tells Congress, that he would never, ever do such a terrible thing.

And yet he did.

Since that statement, the evidence has become overwhelming that some if not most of the attorneys were ousted for political reasons, with considerable input from the White House. One of the eight, for example, was removed as U.S. attorney in Arkansas despite glowing performance reviews. Why? So an aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove could get the job.

Now, that's not a huge scandal. Such decisions, even if made on a political basis, are clearly within a president's prerogative. They do bring into question the judgment of those who would treat one of the most important jobs in federal law enforcement like a mere political plum, but they do not explain why this scandal threatens the careers and reputations of some of the most powerful people in Washington.

To understand that, you have to step to the next level: By denying any political motive or involvement by the White House, Gonzales and other Bush officials lied to the U.S. Senate. That has angered politicians of both parties, leading at least two Republican senators to demand Gonzales' resignation. It's almost funny — a Congress that has allowed itself to be lied to, stonewalled, ignored and ridiculed by the administration for six years over issues fundamental to government finally gets upset at how it's treated, and it's over something like this.

The third level of this scandal is by far the most troubling and explosive, and also the least understood. It goes to how and why those eight prosecutors were selected for replacement despite the fact that most of them were Bush appointees who had conducted themselves well as U.S. attorneys.

John McKay, a well respected Republican lawyer ousted as U.S. attorney in Seattle, says he may have been tagged for removal because he fended off unethical demands from Republican leaders to pursue charges of vote fraud against Washington Democrats, even though those charges were groundless.

"There was no evidence, and I am not going to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury,'' says McKay, who suggests a special prosecutor may be needed to determine the full extent of this scandal.

David Iglesias, the equally well respected Republican ousted as U.S. attorney in New Mexico, believes that he, too, was removed because he ignored pressure from fellow Republicans to indict Democrats just before the 2006 elections. Iglesias has told Congress he felt pressured by phone calls from a U.S. senator and congresswoman; barely a week after the election, his name was added to an internal list of attorneys to be removed.

The most troubling case may be that of Carol Lam, a U.S. attorney from San Diego who put Duke Cunningham, a Republican congressman from California, in federal prison on corruption charges. On the day the Los Angeles Times reported that Lam was also investigating U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the powerful head of the House Appropriations Committee, a top Justice Department official sent an internal e-mail to the White House, complaining about "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam," suggesting a replacement be found quickly.

Any implication that a U.S. attorney's employment depends on his or her willingness to protect a president's political allies and persecute his enemies strikes at the heart of public confidence in the system. Here in Georgia, for example, defenders of former state Sen. Charles Walker, a top Democrat now serving a federal prison term, have long argued that he was the victim of politically motivated prosecution.

That's not the case; Walker was guilty and got what he deserved. But in some quarters this scandal will be seen as lending credence to Walker's claim, and that's unfortunate.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

ActorQuest - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bway 10

There are certainly "politics" that surround you in the theatre world, especially on the Broadway level! But my experience with "Company" has been relatively painless in that regard. Even given that, I do not envy the real world of Politics!

You have already read about some of my piano students and you may remember Rachael, with the "stinky feet". This young lady continues to impress me and so I wrote this one specifially about her. With all the talk of the next Presidential election it seemed a good time to run it here on!.


I had only JUST begun to recover from my deep disappointment over the last presidential election when news of more and more corruption in Washington started to send me back down that dark, depressing hole. For a while, I thought of completely withdrawing from the political scene – no Bush bashing emails, no insightful editorials, no arguments with "friends -- until I began teaching piano lessons to Rachael. Now I am back in the party spirit. Even though her candidacy is still a few years away I am beginning to get excited in supporting Rachael for President!

Unfortunately, Rachael does not yet qualify as a presidential hopeful, as she is only nine years old. So why my optimistic attitude? During her piano lesson Rachael and I talk over life as we know it. She is deeply concerned about the environment, saving whales and other endangered species, treating people fairly -- and running for president! She informed me of this in her last lesson.

She is not only a capable piano student but becoming quite articulate about politics. For instance, she informed me, before the news stations did, that Hilary Clinton would indeed run for president. Rachael did not envy her because she would have to "clean up Bush's mess." Her words, not mine. As the second woman president, she would be happy to ride in on Hilary's coattails. Whatever it takes in calculating the years and presidential terms, I am quite sure that Rachael will be ready when the time comes.

Lest you think I am making this up let me hurry to say that we often have this kind of discussion during her lessons. Sometimes she gets on such a roll that she talks more than she plays. She talks about the Enron fiasco, Martha Stewart's jail time and the budget deficit. She brings up these and other relevant issues, and I just let her improvise and make what seem to be excellent points!

Even though she is surprisingly mature for her age, she can follow up a political discussion by telling me that some boy in her class is "wack-a-doodle" because he lines up all his pencils on his desk. I listen and tend to look on her elementary school experiences as good-down-to-earth-getting-to-know-the-people she will represent one day.

A disgruntled citizen like me couldn't ask for a more well-rounded candidate. She is a purple belt in Tae Kwan Do, plays at the third level of her piano book, is a vegetarian, and has a mother in the health care industry and a father who is a financial officer of some sort. Her older brother is "worthless" as are many other older brothers and she has two golden retrievers who are not. She gets mostly A's in school and never has her "card" turned over for bad behavior. She has begun to take modern dance and dressed as a Vampiress for Halloween. A bold choice, as she is missing her two front teeth.

Rachel gives me hope in our present hopeless political scene. She is smart, energetic, a caring person and a woman. After her lesson, I feel like a new person. She is an antidote to the deadly news of the day.

So just remember where you heard it first: Rachel for President! Keep your eyes on this young lady in the 2036 presidential election!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Philippine Leader Claims On The Right Track In Solving Political Killings

Manila, Philippines (AHN) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday said her administration is on the right track in solving the political killings in the country which have embarrassed her government.

In a statement, Arroyo said, "I have made it a top priority to resolve the killings of political and agrarian activists and of members of the media and to prevent further killings."

"I am confident that we are on the right course," she added.

She also expressed gratitude over the concern issued by United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney early Tuesday saying the Bush administration wants to see the perpetrators of the political killings be brought to justice.

In an interview with reporters during the launch of the Task Force on Anti-Trafficking in Persons at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Keeney declared, "We are concerned. We take extrajudicial killings or murders seriously throughout the world. Human rights are critical to every country that is a democracy."

She said, "I think the important thing now is the government of the Philippines has put together some very good ideas. Let's get them into action."

Arroyo adds, "We appreciate the supportive words of Ambassador Kenney that the government is on the right direction on this issue."

"The implementation of the key recommendations of the Melo Commission Report is proceeding accordingly and we shall inform the public of important developments from time to time," Arroyo adds.

She said she had directed the commission on Human Rights to act on the Melo Commission report to bring to end the embarrassing issue.

Arroyo also cited her proposal to the Supreme Court to establish special courts and for the Department of Foreign Affairs to request technical assistance from the European Union and other independent bodies for the investigation of the killings.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno said two weeks ago that the high court would set up the special courts "as soon as possible."